Embrace Brexit

Andrew R.T. Davies says it is time to accept that Wales voted to embark on a new path outside the EU.

It was John Adams, second President of the United States, who once quipped that “facts are stubborn things”. This was a barb levelled at the politicians of his day who had a propensity to shy away from accepting inalienable and inconvenient truths – who instead sought to transpose debate to an upside down world where facts are merely the stuff of subjective perceptions.

Though he said this more than two hundred years ago, his words strike a strange poignancy to recent events. Wales is in the grip of a new and insidious wave of political thinking. The biggest proponents of this thinking are the First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Welsh nationalist leader Leanne Wood, who have since the EU referendum result framed their public utterances through a prism of political denial.

They seem unable to accept that Wales, and indeed the UK, voted to embark on a new path outside the EU. The First Minister seems especially intransigent in his inability to reflect honestly on why some of Wales’ most deprived communities overwhelmingly turned their backs on those distant edifices in Strasbourg and Brussels.

To be sure, Valleys communities and areas of West Wales need extra financial support. They have undoubtedly benefited somewhat from the three tranches of structural funding the Welsh Government has received – and continues to receive – since 2000. And yet 16 years on these areas remain among the poorest in Europe.

That these communities voted Leave is a truer indication than any auditor’s report as to how successfully the Labour-led government spent this money. Calls last week from the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council for an “all-guns blazing” approach to EU-funding before Article 50 is triggered, encapsulated everything that is, and has been, wrong with Labour’s approach to tackling poverty.

With more than £1bn of structural funding yet to be allocated between now and 2020, there is a very real need to re-think how this money should be spent. Outcomes should be paramount – any rush to mindlessly fritter this money away without careful planning should be avoided at all costs. The government needs to offer more transparency in terms of what each EU-funded project has achieved, and where – if anywhere – there have been failings, so that lessons can be learned.

With a new Prime Minister in post, the way these projects will be funded and supported must and will change. I will make it my mission to ensure that Wales continues to receive at least every penny of the aid money it has historically received via the EU – we deserve and are entitled to no less. Brexit means greater scrutiny to those politicians charged with allocating financial support, where in the unelected EU commissioners there is none.

Now that a new government is being formed, it is not just going to be ‘business as usual’, and more positive reform can be expected. Theresa May a great friend of Wales, and in her establishment of police and crime commissioners, her pro-devolution credentials are plain to see. I am particularly encouraged by her commitment to empowering the individual, to making government work for everyone, and to embracing the referendum result.

On the latter point, of embracing Brexit, I entreat colleagues across the Senedd chamber to do the same. I implore them not to will its failure – not to see hurdles where there are opportunities in abundance. They must, as many thousands of people across Wales do, recognise it for what it is: a chance at a fresh start; a chance to grow the Welsh economy to a state where one day the words ‘structural funding’ are no longer in use.

Key to securing future prosperity for Wales is innovation, investment and infrastructure. Not the mirage of independence or the inactivity of Carwyn Jones’ government.

Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

7 thoughts on “Embrace Brexit

  1. At Last some enthusiastic words for Brexit from Our Conservative Assembly Leader. Very appropriate and i sincerely hope that for a start Labour LeaderJones will abolish his commercial agencies in the U.S.A.and other areas of the world, being run at large cost to us.
    He can then work with the U.K. to obtain more trade for Wales, by the what I am sure,will be U.K. improved trade offices in Embassies around the world.By doing so ,he will cut costs for our Principality & improve performance.
    May be the money which he saves could be used to pay for a new M.4 improvement.

  2. Agree with much of what has been written despite having voted to Remain.

    But comments such as “we deserve and are entitled to …. ” make me feel somewhat uneasy.

    Why do we deserve anything that we can’t pay for? And why is our entitlement any greater than the entitlement of our neighbours?

  3. You didn’t mention farming. Vote leave said “support for family farms will be at least as high as now”. What do you say?

  4. Andrew RT Davies is fond of making sweeping statements whether it be in the Chamber, the television studios in front of journalists too timid to challenge his bluster or now, on the IWA website. To quote:

    “… First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Nationalist leader who have since the EU referendum result framed their public utterances through a prism of political denial.”

    Evidence? Davies does not deal in evidence or indeed stubborn facts. He deals in headlines and in what he thinks he can get away with. Both Jones and Wood have both publicly stated their surprise at the result in Wales and their disappointment; that does not constitute denial. The First Minister has stated that the red line for Wales is access to the single market. He has moved on to the negotiating stage, hardly an indication of denial.

    However he does make a point of political substance, for which he deserves credit, when he says that despite 16 years of EU funding there are areas of Wales that remain the poorest in Europe. This chimes with a conversation I had with a Rhondda man who voted to leave. I asked why he had not been convinced by the EU funding to remain. His reply was that the money was spent on things that made no difference to the situation. He cited the example of a business estate that remained empty for 10 years before starting to attract tenants. The economist would point out the necessity of putting in place the infrastructure required to attract investment. But the impression left on this voter was that it was all too slow to make any real difference. This is only one conversation but I suspect that his view may resonate among other voters as well.

    So it is right that the attention should focus on how the money was spent during that time and also the way in which money spent is regarded as a panacea for political neglect. I remember during our last election campaign when the First Minister went to a television husting in the North East. Members of the audience expressed the view that they felt remote from what was happening in Wales because that was to be found in the South East. Carwyn’s reply was look at how much money we’ve spent on you. The image that sprung to mind was that of a child complaining to his parents of his or her loneliness only to be reminded of how much pocket money they received. It was a completely inappropriate response yet it is how politics has been conducted in this country for many a century.

    If there is one lesson that needs to be learnt from the EU result it is there needs to be a move away from the politics of spending towards the politics of engagement which needs to take place more often than every five years. Prior to the referendum vote, both Labour and Plaid politicians expressed their shock at the views being expressed in favour of Leave. The Valleys is hardly a large geographical area and yet, after 16 years, no-one had picked up on these views. People will only begin to get a sense of belonging when they feel involved in the decision-making that affects them. Our current politics does not deliver that.

    However before Davies puffs out his chest again, he would do well to remember that it was his party that caused the economic devastation still being suffered in the Valleys and elsewhere and that they did nothing to mitigate the effects of their policies in the 12 years they were in power after the end of the miners’ strike. But then would you be concerned with the welfare of the enemy within?

    Where Davies falls down however is in his lack of alternatives. He states that he will fight to ensure that Wales continues to receive every penny of EU money from the Treasury. Why he believes that the Treasury would be the slightest bit interested in what he thinks is a question for another day. Even the First Minister is going to have difficulty making his voice heard though he will have been encouraged by Theresa May’s words in Scotland where she said that she would not trigger Article 50 until there was a deal that would satisfy Scotland and the other devolved administrations. What that means for Wales is yet to emerge.

    However, rather than indulge his usual bombast, he should use the space to tell us what he would do with the money in terms of policies and investment. Given the damage his party has done to our country, it is the least he owe us.

  5. “I will make it my mission to ensure that Wales continues to receive at least every penny of the aid money it has historically received via the EU – we deserve and are entitled to no less. ”

    People might hold you to that, so good luck.

  6. Given that Andrew RT Davies’ apparent fondness for citing ‘inconvenient truths’ how does he feel about the inconvenient truth that despite promises people like him gave us before june 23rd it was confirmed by welsh secretary Alan Cairns on friday that EU funds cant be replaced by westminister. In his piece Andrew RT Davies recognises that ‘Valleys communities and areas of West Wales need extra financial support’ – so where is it now going to come from?

    Furthermore what about claims over the weekend that welsh politicians are being ‘frozen out’ of post brexit negotiations with EU commissioners. Worrying developments like these are not examples of people on the losing side seeing ‘hurdles’ – they are grim political reality! The kind of grim political reality some of us warned about before June 23rd. And while the phrase ‘Embracing brexit’ might make a nice headline it is a meaningless soundbite if it doesnt mean trade and jobs lost to wales as a result of difficulties accessing the eu single market post brexit are replaced.

    The likes of Andrew RT Davies need to understand that they cant run away from the consequences of their own actions during the referendum campaign – if the welsh economy deteriorates as a result of brexit people like him will rightly be held to account for such a state of affairs.

    PS where’s our ‘350 million’ ?

  7. Before the referendum Andrew RT Davies said with certainty that “funding for each and every part of the UK, including Wales, would be safe if we vote to leave.” ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-36523232 )
    Now he says “I will make it my mission to ensure that Wales continues to receive at least every penny of the aid money it has historically received via the EU”, so a lot less certain.
    Where’s our money? We are not going to let this lie.

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy